From Mrs. Somebody to Mrs. Nobody
‘In sickness and in health, Till death do us part,’ is probably one of the most important promises made during a wedding ceremony. The unfortunate reality for many women is that they will lose their husband and become widows, some women at a very young age. Unfortunately, age is not a deterrent against death.
The loss of your life partner whatever your age is one of the most life-changing and devastating experiences a woman will go through, One lady I spoke to describes the experience as going from being Mrs. Somebody to Mrs. No-body following the death of her husband. Married for over 20 years she described her loss as losing the right part of her body, being lost, lonely and angry.
Learning to live without your husband and re-building your new life may seem impossible, it is not what you wanted or expected to happen, the loss to your life is resisted and whilst there is no recipe for living through the grief, there is support to help you get through the intense despair that you are experiencing.
How do I go on?
Understanding that the emotions and feelings that you are experiencing are all natural is a good starting point. The sadness, loneliness, despair, anger, fear, depression, regret and every other possible emotion that you could feel is natural and normal. You are not going mad, you don’t need to be fixed, you are mourning and grief is painful.
A light at the end of the tunnel
It may be only a glimmer of light at the minute but, someday you will see a light at the end of that very dark tunnel, there is hope and with hope and time, you will heal and learn to live again, step by step and bit by bit. Eventually, you will learn to recreate a worthwhile and purposeful life albeit you cannot imagine what that life will look like at this minute.
There are many clichés used by well-meaning people when offering advice following the death of a husband. Some people feel that they should impart their wisdom based on personal experience of loss, some advice may be useful and some advice devastating. Some people make really stupid and insensitive remarks e.g.
“You were Mrs. Somebody, now you’re Mrs. No-body.’
“Well you’re young enough, you will meet someone else.’
‘That’s the end of your social life now, women won’t want you around their husbands.’
“God takes the young first.’
“You will just have to get on with it now, he’s gone and he’s never coming back.’
“Time is a great healer.’
“At least you have children.’
“You were lucky to have him for so long.’
“At least you don’t have to look after him anymore.’
“It was great he had a heart attack and didn’t suffer.’
‘Don’t worry, you’ll get used to the loneliness when my….. ‘
‘I know exactly how you feel.’
The comments above provide only a snapshot of some of the things people say to women who have lost husbands and life partners, I am sure you could add to the list. It is very important to make sure that you don’t give these comments any attention as hurtful as they are. I have written an article and include the 3 I’s which describe the people that make these comments as follows:
- The Ignorant
- The Insensitive
- The Idiot
I also add a footnote at the bottom of their definition, “Forgive them, they know not what they say”.
Recognize that people are just trying to help, unless they have gone through a similar experience, try not to open up to them, as well-meaning as they are, they have no idea what you are going through and their contribution may add to your distress. Talk to someone who understands and has been in your shoes, there are many organisations that can provide support specific to your age group. I have included some links at the bottom of this page.
Tips when coping with your loss
Do not speak to people about your loss unless you trust them completely
Do not listen to advice from others
As stated before, ignore the well-meaning, haven’t a clue and toxic people. Follow your own heart.
Do not make big decisions
Do not under any circumstances make any big decisions or rush into anything e.g. selling your home, moving to another area, moving in with your daughter or son, it is true that you should avoid making any major decisions for at least a year following your loss.
Take the time to grieve and mourn, there is no time limit when it comes to grieving, understand that you will have good days and really bad days, cry and let your emotions out, don’t try and avoid the emotions, crying is a release and will support the process.
It will seem that everywhere you go and everything that you do reminds you of your loss. There will be triggers, a song, the smell of aftershave, someone who looks like him from a distance, someone who says something that he used to say.
You may have dreams of your husband, partner, they will seem so real and when you awaken the realization that it was just a dream can be devastating. Some dreams can also be comforting
Cherish your memories
Though he may have left your life, the man you have lost is still there, in your heart, loving and cheering you on. So for his sake, embrace and enjoy your new life. It’s what he would have wanted most. Talk to him and ask him to help you.
Take one step at a time
If you have shared all of the household responsibilities try to break them down, one job at a time, you won’t be overwhelmed and you will get through them.
Grieve, but not for too long
The grieving process is very different for each individual and as outlined before there is no timeline or appropriate grieving period, however, as difficult as it is to hear at this time, you have a life to live and your husband would certainly not want you to grieve for the rest of your life.
Alcohol and Drugs
Try to avoid using stimulants to get you through the grieving process, some people become dependant on them. Some turn to sleeping tablets and alcohol to ease the pain of grief, grief like all emotions need to be expressed, drugs and alcohol numb the pain like an anesthetic, when it wears off, the pain returns. If you find yourself becoming reliant on them, seek help before you end up harming yourself or someone else.
Look after yourself
Prayer was one of the best therapies in supporting the grief process. Dr. Joseph Murphy has supported my healing journey hugely and I have written article’s about his work. You have to go on! You have to look after yourself! Research highlights the benefit of Music therapy, meditation, emotional freedom tapping techniques and sleep during the grieving process, there are so many great supports and video’s offering hope and shining a light of inspiration to those going through the dark tunnel of loss. Be gentle with yourself, your thoughts and self-talk. Try and eat healthily and get out and exercise, going for a walk, taking up a hobby and doing different things will also help. Distraction and time-out from grief are very important.
If you do need a little support, please think about contacting some of the many support groups available, you can speak to them by telephone, there are also some private bereavement counselors.
Links to support organisations:
Please do seek support, so many women benefit from talking to other women who have gone through a similar experience.